Sunday, November 8, 2009

Notes to Self

Read the Instructions. All of them.

Do not make assumptions re block assembly and finishing.

Because if I had read all of the instructions properly, I would have known to not sew down the outside of the petals. No great loss - this can be my practice block.

Anyway..... I'm not sure of what's going wrong here - I think my templates might be too big because they are not fitting together very well. I'm also having a problem with the pointy ends not being very pointy, which makes it hard to fit things together. Think I'll have to try drafting another template that makes allowance for the fabric bulk that you get where the fabric folds over.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Joseph's Coat

I'm joining Kelli and 185 others (so far) for the Joseph's Coat Quilt Along. I've been gathering fabrics together, and got the rest of the requirements together as well. I didn't think I had a lot of pink/red fabrics, so I started buying, then I looked through stuff I already had and found plenty more. I guess it won't go to waste. I hoping to get some quilting friends to start one as well, so maybe we will be able to swap fabrics.

I don't usually applique by hand, so this will be a nice change of pace. I had most of the sewing supplies, except for a sandpaper board for tracing fabric on. I've seen the Clover ones. They're very expensive!! I figured I could make one for myself without too much effort. Here's mine - a sheet of fine sandpaper, an MDF placemat, some thermal batting, and a bit of fabric and felt. I glued the thermal fleece on the back, so it can be used for ironing, and then covered it with fabric, glued the sandpaper down and added a piece of felt that covers the sandpaper when its not being used. (The peg is holding the corner down while the glue dries a bit more)

I'm pretty happy with the result. I think some quilting friends will be getting these for Christmas.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cake = Fail

The Plan:

A Dolly Varden birthday cake for a friend's birthday. Easy enough - I have the tin for the cake, and I have made one before, so this should be no problem.

Then it gets complicated. I decide that instead of butter cake, I will make white chocolate mud cake. I look at the packet mixes, decide that the ingredients are cheaper to buy and go with that option. 3 blocks of white chocolate, much butter and flour and eggs are melted, mixed and poured into waiting tins.

The Result:


I hadn't used this recipe before, so obviously it is not a good one. The batter was very runny, and just exploded over the top of the tin (thank goodness I had it on another tray, or it all would have ended up on the bottom of the oven. I had to throw the tray out). Still, it might have been OK when I turned it out.

Nope. It disintegrated. It tasted alright, but couldn't be salvaged. Bugger.

So, onto a new cake. With time running short, I forgot about the fancy ideas and went with a basic butter cake. To make it even easier, I bought packet mixes.

Result No 2:

It's all good - didn't over flow the tin, turned out in one piece, decorated and ready for the birthday girl.

Lessons Learnt:

ALWAYS make a practice cake, especially for untried recipes. I usually do this, and teenage boys eat the excess cake for me. (They also eat all the leftover decorations, they're considerate like that). They actually ate the failed cake, too, so it wasn't a complete waste.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Everywhere I look - Jacarandas in full bloom. A bit early this year because of the warm temperatures and lack of rain, apparently.

This one is outside the Regatta Hotel on Coro drive.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

non-favourite things

Still going on the Peace quilt. It has required me to do some of my non-favourite sewing things - unpicking, pinning, and easing seams.

The unpicking may have been preventable (if I was a spatial genius) but I have done more unpicking, re-pressing and re-sewing on this quilt than I have ever done on any other. My usual approach to "errors" is to classify them as critical or non -critical. Non-critical errors just add to the character of the quilt. Unfortunately, with so many small pieces, every error I made was critical and needed to be fixed. I probably should have just re cut pieces and started again, but it's all done now.

And the pinning! Every seam, every join - PINNED! The suggested construction method was to make long diagonal rows and then join them. Little pieces (1 1/4 inch strips and squares), and lots of seams means lots of stretching. And despite my careful preparation, there was a lot of easing seams together and persuasive pressing to make it flat.

The whole top is on the bias, prone to stretching and if it hangs flat once it's quilted I'll be amazed. We'll see if all my careful pressing and handling helps. I'm glad I chose to do the foundation piecing on interfacing - it makes the crane blocks very stable and non stretchy.

I need to take a break from piecing, I think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


My house was damaged in the "cyclone" that went through the northern suburbs of Brisbane in November last year. It has taken 9 months to get repairs started, I will be un-RACQ-ing as soon as they have paid out the rest of the claim. A stressful event from beginning to soon-to-be end.
(The light fiting is still full of dirty water in this pic - there was a lot of water in the house.)

So this is what I have lived with for the last 9 months - a 2 metre hole in the ceiling over the kitchen. As the storm was coming over, I had looked out the window at the green sky and said that I was glad we had the big gum trees taken out of our back yard. Unfortunately, the back neighbours still have their trees, and all the branches hit our house. Broken tiles, leaking roof, wet insulation, leaking light fittings = collapsed ceiling. There was some other damage to the house and fences, but this is the most obvious. I have taken to calling it the bogan skylight - the plasterers liked the name.
Yesterday the plasterers finally arrived and did this to my kitchen. I think they tried to clean up afterwards, but I still have to vacuum the top of the cupboards. I haven't looked, but I am sure they are covered with the same crap that fell every where else. Think I'll wait till the cornices are done on Thursday. Still need the electrician and painter to finish things off and then I can start painting walls. (they weren't damaged, I just want to freshen things up)

Started the Peace quilt. I am foundation piecing on interfacing for this one. I like foundation piecing, but the picking out of paper afterwards is really tedious. Using interfacing means that I have to trace out each block by hand, but I think I prefer that to the paper removal. I did think that I would hand piece the blocks, because they are a bit fiddly. I've started doing them on the machine now though, still fiddly but I've got the hang of it now. Have to make 98 total.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Still going with the crochet hexagons - they are pretty quick to make up, and I am crocheting them together as I go.

I kind of take for granted that I know how to crochet, and knit, and sew. It's not until I encounter some one who is learning to do something new that I realise how much I take these skills for granted. I remember learning to crochet when I was about 10, and how completely bamboozled I was by number of loops over the hook to do a treble and why didn't the numbers work out - three loops minus 2 equals 1 left on the hook, right? Wrong! It equals 2 (I'd forgotten the one that you pull through). It was a light bulb moment for me, and once that was worked out I was fine. I didn't really make anything as a child, but I spent a lot of time fiddling with bits of wool and stuff. And it seems to be like riding a bike - I haven't crocheted anything for years, but I could just do it, it must be retained in your brain somewhere.

The shelves at Spotlight remain completely bare of 8 ply wool. It's been like this for weeks and weeks. There really isn't anywhere else on the Northside of Brisbane to buy supplies - Big W has a limited (very limited) range - I couldn't find anything to buy there, even though all the wool was on sale, there was no plain 8 ply plain colours in 100% wool. Things were looking so bad at Spotlight that I was seriously considering buying acrylic. Alas, this was also only available in crappy colours, so I talked myself out of it. Acrylic stuff has it's place, but I don't think it wears as nicely as wool, plus it usually feels like steel wool as well.

Might have to rethink my wool napper theory, since I caught another cat blatantly attacking the wool. No subtlety or subterfuge here, she strutted over and went crazy - Siamese-style - on me.

I bought this fabric today for a future quilt. This is for the back - they are giant koi and tiny kitties doing various things like reading newspapers and making shopping lists. I think one of them is smoking. Those wacky Japanese :-) It even drew comment from the gruff fabric shop man. I think he liked it more when I pointed out the kitties to him. For $8 a metre, it's a bargain.

I'm going to make the Peace quilt by Margaret Rolfe. It's foundation pieced. Think I might do this on interfacing, instead of paper, so I don't have to pull all the papers out. I want to get a purple/grey background instead of the navy blue so it tones in with the backing a little. I bought a set of 50 charm squares to start the Japanese fabric off. I don't have many Japanese fabrics - I like them, but they are kind of hard to use with anything but Japanese fabrics. This was a "talked me into it" project. My friend likes for me to make the same quilt as she is, and she wanted to use Japanese fabrics. I'd seen this quilt a while ago, so cranes it is. Lots of little blocks, though. I'll probably say some bad words before this is finished.

Today is Quilt Judging Day for the RNA show. They haven't called to tell me I've won yet. Last time I won a prize they called me at 9.00 pm to tell me, so there is still time for them yet.

Or, if worst comes to worst, I will have to pay to get into the Ekka (they give you free tix if you win a prize). My son is more excited about the possibility of free tix than of me winning a prize.

Edited to add: I won Best Use of Colour! Free Ekka tickets are on their way!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

8 ply drama

I'm off to the RNA showgrounds this morning to drop off my quilts - finished, labeled, de-furred, and bagged - all ready to go. I really struggled with finishing them off, especially the purple one because I think it's kinda ugly now. Not sure if it's just that I'm sick of looking at it and need to take a break - absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe. I've listed both of them for sale, too. I don't think they will sell though - people love quilts and really want one - until they find out how much they cost.

So with no quilt projects on the go, I've gone back to crochet for a break. I've been thinking about hexagon granny shapes, so that's what I've started doing.
I've had this wool for a while, so I'll use this and add to it as I go. It's just the basic 8 ply from Spotlight, which is cheap enough and should be easily available. Except if you want to buy it from the Everton Park Spotlight, in which case there are lots of empty shelves where the 8 ply used to be. I've been back several times in the past 6-8 weeks and it never changes, so either it is never in stock or there is a mad rush on it every time it comes in and I always miss out. So I am giving up on this option and going upmarket.

I'm going to Threads and More to buy some Biggan merino - twice the price, but the colours! oh my! I am trying to buy strategically - colours that I can't get anywhere else (which is all of them except brown). Think I'll get 4 or 5 for starter and see how I go. My enthusiasm for crochet could fade at any minute.

Looks innocent enough, doesn't she? I have no actual proof, but I think she is the phantom wool napper in this house. I often come home and find balls of wool stewn around the house - not wrecked, but carried gently and left in odd places, like the doorway to my bedroom or in the kitchen. I haven't caught her in the act - she is too clever for that.

Repair job to be done - I musn't have started the ring bit properly, or maybe it's the bamboo fibre (heavy and slinky) doesn't hold knots the same as wool does. Not looking forward to this.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Working full time is really interfering with my sewing time. I have been getting some things done though -

This is a baby quilt that I started the blocks for a while ago - I put the blocks together and then gave them to a friend to finish because she liked them. I've finished the quilting off for her and put the binding on. Such a simple pattern (it was in a magazine of baby quilts, the name of which escapes me at the moment) but it is so pretty.

I've also been quilting like crazy to finish this for the RNA show. I've struggled with the quilting on this for a long time - so it has been unfinished for a few years now.

I came across Patsy Thompson's quilting - feathers, hyperquilting, lots of colour! Just the inspiration I needed. I think I'll try to find an Australian supplier for the DVD's - they look like a great investment.

So this is my first try at feathers on a proper quilt - I've done them on practice pieces and been less than happy, but I decided to go ahead with them anyway on this quilt. I'm not a big fan of marking, so the only marking has been for the spines - all the feathers are free hand. Surprisingly, they look symmetrical and even.
Hyper quilting is what Patsy calls adding another thread colour and adding another element to the quilting - I've done the feathers in a purple thread, then added pink and orange swirls on top of it. I like the effect of the multiple threads, but I'm not sure if I like this quilt any more. I can't decide if it's good, or if it's just ugly. Maybe i'm just tired of looking at it. (plus I have a migraine, so maybe my judgement is affected).

sThis is my fancy, jerry-rigged quilt hanging system. You need to get quilts vertical to get a decent photo (for show entries) so I have a pole on my lounge room wall and use trouser hangers to clip things up. You can use the pole to hang things on a sleeve if the quilt has one. I usually add one to my quilts, even if they're not going in a show, in case I want to hang it up one day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dolls need quilts

I read about this project over at Craft Hope to donate dolls to children at the Casa Bernabe Orphanage.

I'm sending these girls off tomorrow to live in Nicaragua. I'm sending their little quilts with them, too. Dolls need quilts.

These girls will be going to Victoria, as a contribution to Handmade Help. Each doll has a little quilt, mostly made from leftover bits and pieces from quilts I've made over the years. Those little pieces went a long way - there are 13 little quilts in that pile. I had some assistance making the dolls from my sewing friends - they've never made dolls before, so it was quite an experience.

The quilting is progressing - I'm quite enjoying it now that I've started. The plan is to enter both quilts in the RNA Quilts Across Queensland show this year. Entries close June 26th, so they have to be photo ready by then. I'll have a couple more weeks after then to fully complete them.

And this is what the inside of my sewing machine looks like after a couple of hours quilting. I clean my machine frequently - a cotton bud is better that the little nylon brush you get with the machine, and I put a drop of machine oil on to help pick up the lint. I remember hearing that the cleaning/oiling recommendations that come with the machine are based on usage of about 30 hours dressmaking per year. Obviously, my machine gets a lot more use than that.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I'm going to work.

On a Saturday, after I've been home all week on holidays.

I just want to stay home and quilt - I think the quilters block is mostly cured.

Maybe I will console myself with a visit to Spotlight on the way home.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Paisley is the answer!

I was trying to cure my quilter's block when I saw a picture of paisley fabric. I love paisley, it so curly and loopy and gorgeous.

So now I'm madly googling images of paisley (line drawings) and I'm going to do a sampler/practice quilt to see if my idea will work.

I don't like to mark quilting - I think it is harder to follow a line on the fabric than it is to just freehand it. But you do need to "learn" patterns so they are in your head and you don't get stuck while you're quilting. I'm thinking that I'll quilt the paisley in colours on the dark background and then kind of McTavish the rest of the background.

I'll let you know how it works out.

quilters block

This is a quilt that I started a while ago - the pattern is Circle of Life by Jacqueline de Jonge. I've started the quilting - all the ditch "foundation" quilting has been done, but I've been stuck with what to do next. So it's been folded up and waiting for it's turn.

Next in the quilter's block pile - this (unamed) one. I designed this on EQ5, finished the top and ran out of puff when it came to the quilting. I should just get started and do something, instead of over thinking it and not doing anything. (The purple background is quite dark, the flash has made it look really bright).

This is a friends quilt that I am finishing the quilting on. Fifi offered her assistance by sitting on my lap while I was trying to quilt.

See that bulge under the U for Umbrella?

Coco was testing out the quilt for cosiness - she sat there for hours, so I think she approved.

I don't know what cats in non-quilting households do for entertainment - mine get a lot of fun out of playing under them - I have to make quilt tents for them to sit in, and they always test them out when they are lying on the ironing board.

Back to quilting.....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jelly Cakes - part one

I made a start on the baking. First up - Jelly Cakes. They are really just round, pink, lamingtons with a bit of cream in the middle. Or they will be when they're finished.

I don't make these very often - they are a bit of a business if you try to do it all at once. But they must be making a comeback, because I saw a Greens cake mix for them at the supermarket today.

Essential items: Gem Irons

I love these - they are cast iron and really heavy. Also a complete PITA to clean - they are not non-stick cookware.

Not Essential but-nice-to-have: Sunbeam MixMaster

According to the instruction book, this MixMaster was born in 1969. I bought it for $20 (I know!!!! Score!!!) a while ago. I love how you can be mixing the butter and sugar and walk over to the pantry and get the vanilla, makes me feel just like Martha Stewart.

Semi finished (naked) Jelly Cakes
I'm going to freeze these now and assemble them on Saturday afternoon for Sunday. They need to be trimmed to a level hemishere, joined together with cream, dipped in raspberry jelly, and finally (finally!!) rolled in coconut.

Labour intensive, but people love them. I'm quite fond of them myself.

tea party

I'm having a tea party on Sunday, and made these invitations - I bought the plain cards and wanted to add cupcakes to the front. Running seriously short on time (had to finish them that night), I ended up using vliesofix to iron on little fabric appliques - I used my clover iron to attach them to the card. The cherry on top is a little dot of paint.

I worked 6 days in a row last week, so no sewing was done during the week. By Sunday I was itching to sew something - anything! - so I got back to the doll quilts. Finished 6 little tops and then sandwiched them and started quilting.

It's hard to sew in a straight line you get head-butted an attention seeking cat.

All the straight in-the-ditch quilting is done, I want to add a little bit of free motion loop-de-loops to them next.

Still need to work out a menu for Sunday. So far I have decided on:

Dainty sandwiches
mini quiches
Cream puffs
Jelly cakes
Passionfruit cake (this will depend on the availability of passionfruit in the backyard, because I just looked at the price of them in the supermarket and there is no way I am paying $1.70 for 1 passionfruit.)
Scones with jam and cream

I'll have to make a few of these things ahead of time, because at this stage I will probably be
working on Saturday.

I also want to go to the Stitches and Craft show this week - but the working/tea party is cancelling that out unless I can switch a day off during this week.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

vintage & scrappy

I found this great fabric at Lifeline - I love the little chinese (japanese?) figures and the tea things on the alternate rows. I paid $3 for a piece that is about 2 metres long. You can't see the texture in the fabric, but is that vintage slubby fabric that my Grandma used to make dresses out of. Plus a loaf tin - it has a little bit of rust but not too bad. Not sure what I'll do with the fabric yet - maybe a bag.

New project - this quilt is a co-ordinated scrap quilt in pink/orange/red and blue/green strips. I'm still making doll quilts, so I thought I'd use this idea to whip up a few more.

I like this stage - the planning is done and I've cut (probably too many) strips and getting ready to start sewing. Then it becomes (organised) chaos - trying to make sure that all the fabrics are distributed evenly and I don't accidentally sew two the same together.

I think sucessful scrap quilts need planning - you really can't just use what ever you have, they need to have a bit of control with either colours or with tones (or styles of fabric). A lot of my fabric is in clear, bright tones so I have no trouble picking out a stack of greens and a stack of oranges that will work for this quilt idea.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

little things

Lots of little bits and pieces i've acquired over the years.

The oldest - little baby doll made by a friends mother and given as a gift in 1982.
The newest - awful souvenir thimble from P&O cruise I just went on.
The favourite(s) - Beswick Siamese kitten and tiny temple dog.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I've been using a lot of felt lately - mostly for doll hair on the Black Apple dolls, but also for the little bunnies I made for easter. I've acquired a box full of it - a lot is the crappy acrylic stuff that comes in squares from Spotlight, but I later found that they had some lovely wool felt that you could buy by the metre. Not in very many colours, unfortunately, but better than nothing. It's much nicer than the acrylic stuff - soft and tactile. I remember having felt play sets when I was little - you got a printed background and had shapes that you could stick on - no-glue-magic! - to make a picture. I'm sure I had a circus set. I was easily amused in the 70's.

I saw this free (!!) pattern at The Purl Bee for a felt doll, designed by Mimi Kirchener.

I have a friend with a birthday next week, so I thought I'd try one of these dolls. I used the felt I had on hand, hence the hot pink - it was the only piece large enough to cut the dress from. The instructions at The Purl Bee are very clear and easy to follow - along with some great ideas like tracing the pattern onto freezer paper and then ironing onto the felt to cut the pattern pieces. I took a step out of this and printed the pattern straight onto the freezer paper. (Cut it the same size as A4 paper and you can feed it through a printer).

Here's mine - the pink is darker than it looks here, and I haven't rinsed the blue marker off her face yet. I'm pretty happy with how she turned out, despite my limited range of felt colours (I only used felt that I had, just to test the pattern out.)

Here's what I had to contend with while I was trying to sew her - a lap cat. I must have looked un-busy, because she wanted to sit on my lap all day while I was trying to sew. Normally, she just stays for 5 minutes and then goes off to her own lounge, but not yesterday.

Back to Spotlight to buy some more wool felt this morning. Not many colours (sigh) but enough to keep me going for a while. I would love to get some flesh toned felt, maybe I'll be able to get some at the textile festival at the end of May. I can't think of any local shops that would carry it anyway - I doubt quilt shops would sell any (or if they do, I haven't noticed it).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

creative space

Next to my chair:

Easter projects underway - felt bunnies and fabric eggs. The bunnies are made of felt and are whip stitched together, so they are very quick and easy. I'll add some little chocolate eggs and give them to people I work with on Thursday.

I've also been making toys for Handmade Help - so far I have about 20 Black Apple dolls, and I decided that little doll quilts would be a nice addition - you can see some of the dolls sitting on the back of my lounge, and Coco is testing the doll quilts for me. I think she approves.